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Gary Roberts Performance
November 27, 2023
With many of you stuck at home and unable to train in gyms, we’ve been getting many questions about how people can use their at-home equipment to adequately challenge themselves and continue moving towards their hockey training goals. Strength training is often the toughest for people to successfully accomplish at home due to many lacking sufficient weight implements such as dumbbells, kettlebells, plates, etc. While obviously this can make adequately challenging yourself difficult, there are several parameters that you can look to change to increase the difficulty with minimal weight. The following article will look to provide some simple options when it comes to changing exercise parameters to maximize the effectiveness of your at-home equipment, no matter what you’re working with.
The first and perhaps the easiest thing to manipulate is your tempo. Tempo refers to the pacing of a movement; time spent loading, holding or completing an exercise. If we look at a squat for example, the eccentric phase or, loading phase of the exercise is occurring as we descend into the squat. Slowing down this phase of the movement creates more time under tension, which means it increases the time our muscles need to continually work, which fatigues the working muscles more so than quicker concentric focused rep. When it comes to performing this type of training, it is key to move with control during every rep. The eccentric portion should obviously be slow, but the concentric portion should be performed as normal; moving quickly with control.
Depending on the equipment you have available, start with shorter length eccentrics, like 3- to 5-seconds, and then once you get a sense of how this type of exercise feels, play around with repetitions, weight, and even slower reps to see what works most effectively for you.
In addition to moving slowly, you can hold a position. This is known as an isometric, as there is no significant change in joint angles. Isometrics can be done at various points throughout one’s ranges of motion and can help develop several important strength qualities. Cal Dietz speaks to the importance of the isometric phase of movement in his book Triphasic Training. For one, it can help you develop the ability to transfer force more effectively, as holding a position requires you to maintain the energy you used to get into the position in the first place, stay in that position and then you have to use that energy to get out of it. A second benefit of isometric training is it helps recruit additional muscle groups, as the need to decelerate to a sudden stop requires more force, so more muscle groups are recruited and recruited faster. With more muscles being recruited, muscular coordination also is improved, and improving coordination leads to improved movement control and quality.
There are three ways we like to program isometrics to help these qualities. The first involves quickly loading into the isometric position, holding there for the assigned amount of time (usually 3-5 seconds) then getting out of the held position as quickly as you went in. The second is paused reps, which involves stopping at certain positions throughout an exercise’s range of motion. For example during a squat, stopping at the ¼, ½ , ¾ , and bottom position, and holding each of those for 2-3 seconds before moving to the next position, then standing back up in one fluid movement. Finally, extended isometric holds are also an option, and they involve holding positions for twenty-plus seconds, without changing position. Some of the ones we use most are split squat or rear-foot elevated split squat holds, and push-up iso-holds (holding the bottom position). Try different durations, or try adding additional weight or resistance to progress the exercise.
Mechanical Advantage and Disadvantage
Fortunately for us, gravity in the gym is the same as it is at your house, and you can use that to your advantage when completing movements at home. We can work with gravity, using it to help make certain movements easier, or conversely, we can work against gravity, increasing the force our muscles must overcome to create movement. We do this by changing position. Every position we get into when performing exercises has certain biomechanical advantages and disadvantages and if the position is manipulated right, you can adjust the difficulty of an exercise to fit almost every training need. For instance, if regular push-ups are starting to get a little boring, you can try going feet-elevated to progress the exercise. Another option would be to superset different positions into a drop set to maximize muscle recruitment. Again, with push-ups as an example, try doing a set of hands elevated push-ups, immediately followed by a set of feet-elevated push-ups and finish with a set of standard push-ups. By manipulating our position, we can utilize gravity to maximize muscle recruitment. Throw in a tempo from either or both of the previous sections and your training options have increased considerably.
Stance and Balance
Training at home is also a great time to work on one’s balance and stability, especially if you do not have access to the same weights or equipment you normally have at the gym. Performing exercises or movements from a slightly different stance or loaded a different way can be a great way to challenge your balance. If you usually perform bilateral movements such as the squat or deadlift, try doing a split squat or split-stance deadlift, as it forces you to stabilize through one leg as you train the same movement. Another option would be to change the way you load the exercise; maybe only hold a dumbbell or kettlebell on one side when doing your split squat, or perform a split-stance deadlift with the weight in either a contralateral or ipsilateral position. These new stimuli will challenge your body, recruiting new muscle groups, as it performs movements you may already be familiar with. These types of movements will also help if you do not have access to a lot of weight, due to the balance and stability requirements of some of these positions, it often takes very little weight to stimulate adaptation. Plus, when you return to the gym and/or your regular training program, your body will have those new neuromuscular adaptations and perhaps make that return to training much more manageable.
Lastly, but arguably the most important part of making progress with at-home training, is staying consistent with your program. Qualities such as strength and power only last so long without continuous stimulus so it’s important to train them on a regular basis. It is very easy to create excuses or find something else to do if you cannot go to the gym, but if you want to set yourself up for success when you return to the gym, weight room, or sports activity, it is important to stay consistent!
If you are interested in taking your at-home training to the next level, GR performance offers online training services through our app. We can tailor your program to fit your training goals no matter what your equipment situation is.
Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson. Triphasic Training – A Systematic Approach to Elite Speed and Explosive Strength Performance. 2012.